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Avenged Sevenfold

Embracing both screamo and post-metalcore genres, AVENGED SEVENFOLD have uniquely found themselves atop of both the US and UK charts with studio album number six-six-six, HAIL TO THE KING (2013) {*7}. Whether one can attribute their success to the hard graft they’d put into being in the previous dozen or so years, or their fusion of BLACK SABBATH, GUNS N’ ROSES and METALLICA riffs (or the aura of lead chanter M. Shadows), well… that was for pundits and fans to fight over until sun-up. From the devilish opening of `Shepherd Of Fire’ or the rippling guitar licks of the title track minor hit, the reincarnation of the classic rock motif was resurrected fully on the doom-laden `Requiem’ (URIAH HEEP, anyone?), the bleak `Crimson Day’ (er… WISHBONE ASH) or `Coming Home’ (think IRON MAIDEN). Tracking their hair-metal masters might’ve been a risky trail to take, but A7X have nevertheless won over tattooed bat-kids from all over the globe.
Tracing their roots back to 1999 and the southern Californian seaside city of Huntington Beach, in Orange County, AVENGED SEVENFOLD abandoned extracurricular school activities to become a rawk act. Originally comprising vocalist M. Shadows (aka Matthew Sanders), guitarist Zacky Vengeance (or Zachary Baker), bassist Matt Wendt (almost immediately superseded by Justin Sane) and drummer The Rev (born James Sullivan), the theatrical and the biblical played a big part in the launch and appeal of the gothic-looking outfit.
Produced from two demos, SOUNDING THE SEVENTH TRUMPET (2001) {*7}, unleashed the beast in all its filth and fiery fury, although M. Shadows, at times, tempered his angst and menace with a couple of proper rock ballads in the shape of `Warmness On The Soul’ and `Shattered By Broken Dreams’. Nevertheless, gritty sonic blasts via `Turn The Other Way’, `The Art Of Subconscious Illusion’ and the wildcat `We Come At Night’, screeched evil in an apocalyptic form, while one could assume they’d just been listening to BLACK FLAG or MISFITS. Incidentally, Justin Sane lived up to his full moniker when he attempted to commit suicide (or indeed go mental) by taking copious amounts of cough medicine – needless to say, don’t try this at home.
The addition of second guitarist Synyster Gates (aka Brian Haner, Jr.) and Sane’s eventual replacement Johnny Christ (aka Jonathan Seward), sophomore album WAKING THE FALLEN (2003) {*7} delivered the same defiant, doomsday deviation. On a mission to speed into action at the drop of a bandana, A7X were at their most menacing and malevolent on `Desecrate Through Reverence’, `Eternal Rest’ and `Radiant Eclipse’.
Warner Brothers duly came a-knocking on their bat-caves, and through third album, CITY OF EVIL (2005) {*7}, that they made their mark in the Top 30. Described as a meeting between the NWOBHM genre and MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, their machine-gun rhythms were oft curtailed by the odd soft-rocker – in this instance `Seize The Day’ and `M.I.A.’. Imagery, soaring melodies and growls of gritty, axe-grinding trade-offs, fan faves and MTV raves came by way of `Burn It Down’, `Bat Country’ and `The Wicked End’.
The eponymous AVENGED SEVENFOLD (2007) {*6} expanded the vocal range of M. Shadows, who’d taken it upon himself to employ a vocal coach after surgery had curtailed his “Exorcist”-like growl. Top 5 in their homeland and a Top 30 breakthrough in Britain, the sonic bombast and symphonic blasts of AOR production (example `Lost’), could not spoil the lightning-fast exploits of `Afterlife’, `Unbound (The Wild Life)’ and the lengthy, theatrical `A Little Piece Of Heaven’.
The band looked to be in their glory on the part DVD-live/CD-rare extravaganza of LIVE IN THE LBC & DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH (2008) {*6} double-set. While one doesn’t allow one to comment on the scantily-clad females on the DVD disc, the flashy frontman that was M. Shadows captured the essence of old nuggets such as PANTERA’s `Walk’ and IRON MAIDEN’s `Flash Of The Blade’ on the CD side.
Then, out of the blue, just as the band were ready to unveil their fifth studio set, James “The Rev” Sullivan was found dead on December 28, 2009, the coroner stating that he’d died from an overdose of pills, alcohol and more significantly, cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) – he was only 28. As a tribute to the drummer, but with DREAM THEATER’s Mike Portnoy taking up his drum-stool, NIGHTMARE (2010) {*7}, scaled the American charts (Top 5 in Britain). Unhinged as always and chugging out riff-tastic rhythms of METALLICA/MEGADETH proportions, the schizoid and creepy M. Shadows interspersed his retro-line between the rough and the smooth; best on show stemming from `Danger Line’, `Welcome To The Family’, the exquisite `Buried Alive’ and `Victim’.
The following year, Arin Ilejay (ex-Confide) was finally installed as A7X’s new drummer as they duly conquered the world with the aforementioned “Hail To The King”.
Three years on and kept secret by the band until it’s launch by Capitol Records in late October 2016, studio set THE STAGE {*8} was the first to feature veteran sticksman Brooks Wackerman (of MASS MENTAL and ex-BAD RELIGION). It’s hush-hush release caught out many in the business; M. Shadows’ rhetoric was to capture the mystique of the band while not running to conventional protocol. AVENGED SEVENFOLD had amassed astronomical sales figures of late, and “The Stage” was set to emulate their previous golden era. A prog-metal concept concerning A.I. and the globe’s need for self-destruction (hinting on the US of A’s recent electoral battles, no doubt), the band were hoping to gnaw the conscious of the un-easy listener before mankind presses its final red button to extinction. Bookended by epic slices of “guitar-hero” exercises in the title track and the 15-minute warning, `Exist’, their DREAM THEATER aspect was indeed a nightmarish scenario. Kalashnikov drumming, elasticated guitar solos and that distinctive, devil-ish soar by purgatory Matt, the inventive `Paradigm’ and `Fermi Paradox’ were pitched alongside the bible-battering `God Damn’ and `Creating God’.
© MC Strong/MCS Aug2013-Nov2016

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